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29 Feb 2016

Joris Tielens, Guardian (UK)

Index pushes seed companies to address smallholder farmers' food security

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"New index ranks Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta on efforts to help smallholders", 27 Feb 2016

The world’s leading seed companies must do more to increase smallholder farmers’ access to seeds. This is the conclusion of the recently launched Access to Seeds Index, which ranks leading seed companies on their efforts to improve the productivity of smallholder farmers...The index...is the first of its type, and aims to inform the debate on the role of seed corporations in food security. One billion people still go to bed hungry, and the bulk of the world’s population growth is expected to take place in the world’s most food-insecure regions...Ido Verhagen, executive director of the Access to Seeds Index Foundation, says leading companies in the Index view serving smallholder farmers as a business opportunity while lower-rated companies regard it as charity or corporate social responsibility...The Index, however, has faced some criticism from Oxfam. While companies earn points if they share some of their plant genetic resources in a charity project they don’t get penalised for having a restrictive patenting policy and maintaining a monopoly on plant genetic materials, says Gigi Manicad, a seed expert with Oxfam Novib, the Dutch branch of Oxfam...In response to the Index being published, DuPont Pioneer says it is committed to improving the livelihoods of at least 3 million farmers by the end of 2020. “They are a piece of the puzzle to strengthening global food security, poverty alleviation and agricultural systems in so many parts of the world,” says European spokesperson József Máté...